IMF information released by the Treasury under FoI

The Treasury has released new information about the British government's appeal to the International Monetary Fund in 1976 for the loan it required to survive a serious currency crisis.

The information, released under a Freedom of Information request by the Financial Times, includes the "letter of intent" that Denis Healey, the finance minister of the Labour government at the time, sent to the IMF. Dated 15 December 1976, the letter contains new information about the extent of the public expenditure reductions that Britain proposed to the IMF, including the fact that they were far greater than the public knew at the time.

The letter sets out the strategy of emergency measures suggested by Healey, including tax increases, public expenditure controls, tight money-supply targets and a social contract with the unions to limit their demands.

The Financial Times submitted its Freedom of Information request for the documents last February, and the Conservatives have accused the chancellor, Gordon Brown, of timing the release this week in an effort to make the economic policies of the current government look far superior to those of the leftist Labour Party of the late 1970s: "It does seem a strange coincidence that in a week in which the chancellor had to halve his growth forecasts and admit we have among the slowest economic growth in the EU, the Treasury produces FoI documents reminding us how disastrous Labour's previous handling of the economy was," said George Osborne, a financial spokesman for the Conservatives.

New information on U.K. currency crisis (Business Week, 10 December 2005)